Black Eagle Company.A Typical command of Confederate soldiers.
By H. E. Wood, Ex-Color Sergeant, Eighteenth Virginia Regiment.
As it has been requested that a roster of the different organizations of the Confederate army be given, I will endeavor to give as completed record of the Black Eagle Company of Cumberland county, Va., as I can now remember, after an interval of thirty-eight years. This company was mustered into the service at Richmond, April 23rd, 1861, and was known afterwards as Company E. Eighteenth regiment, Virginia Volunteers, and had the following list of officers, non-commissioned officers and privates: Harrison, Carter H., first captain, promoted major, Eleventh Virginia Regiment; killed at Bull Run, Va., 18th July, 1861. Harrison, Randolph, second captain; promoted colonel in Wise's Legion; lost his leg near Petersburg, Va., April, 1865; dead. Shields, Dr. Thomas P., third captain; wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 27th June, 1862; promoted surgeon. Leitch, Thomas M., second lieutenant; exempted from service 1862. Cocke, Edmund R., fourth captain; wounded at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Weymouth, John E,, first lieutenant; wounded at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863; dead. Austin, Cornelius, second lieutenant; killed at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Cocke, William F., third lieutenant; killed at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Dobbs, Henry J., color sergeant; promoted lieutenant; wounded at Frazer's Farm, Va., 1st July, 1862.
Non-commissioned officers and privates.Bagby, Bates, killed near Petersburg, Va., 1865. Barker, Charles, exempted from service, 1861; dead.  Barker, Jesse, color sergeant; killed at Sharpsburg, Md., 1862. Barker, Joce, exempted from service, 1862. Barker,, John, killed at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Bootwright, James, killed on picket post near Richmond, Va., 1862. Boston, Solon A., color sergeant, killed at Williamsburg, Va., May 1st, 1862. Bragg, William, exempted from service, 1862. Bryant, Richard A., died in service, 1862. Carroll, John D., lost his life capturing a Federal gunboat, winter, 1864. Clift, M. B., died since the war. Clopton, Walter, wounded at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Cosby, Charles, exempted from service, 1861. Cosby, George, corporal; wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862; dead. Cosby, Richard, killed at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Daingerfield, John, exempted from service, 1861; dead. Daniel, John C., transferred to cavalry 1862; dead. Dawson, Judson, wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Dawson, William, exempted from service, 1861. Dowdy, James, killed at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Duncan, Joseph, on detail service during the war. Fleming, A. J., orderly sergeant; exempted from service, 1862. Flippen, E. A., wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Frayser, James, exempted from service, 1862. Frayser, Robert, color sergeant; wounded near Richmond, Va., 1862. Frayser, William, wounded at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. French, Hugh H.; wounded at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863; dead. Gilliam, Carter, orderly sergeant; killed at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Goodman, E. M., exempted from service, 1861. Goodman, Robert T., wounded July 20th, near Manassas, Va., 1861. Goodman, W. D., transferred to cavalry, 1862. Gray, Thomas A., substituted, 1862; dead. Harrison, Dr. T. J., promoted surgeon, 1861; dead. Harris, Henry J., transferred to cavalry, 1862.  Hudgins, Elijah G., substituted, 1861; dead. Hudgins, Frank, wounded at Sharpsburg,, Md., 1862; dead. Hudgins, T. W., on detail service, 1862. Hughes, Thomas Anderson, transferred from Twenty-eighth Virginia regiment, 1861; died in service, 1862. Isbell, James T., exempted from service, 1862; dead. Jackson, B. F., sergeant, exempted from service, 1862; dead. Jackson, P. H., exempted from service, 1862; dead. Johnson, Columbus, on detail service; dead. Johnson, E. A., killed at Seven Pines, Va., 1st June, 1862. Johnson, E. S. Johnson, Howard, came as a substitute in the winter of 1861; deserted near Williamsburg, Va., May 1862; evidently a spy. Johnson, Lyttleton T., wounded at Frayser's Farm, Va., 1st July, 1862. Martin, Austin, killed at Manassas, Va., 21st July, 1861. Mayo, Joseph H., transferred to Cavalry, 1862. Mayo, William H., transferred to Cavalry, 1862; dead. Morton, James, killed at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863. Page, William Nelson, killed at Manassas, Va., 1861, July 21st. Pendleton, E. H., on detail service during the war; dead. Pettit, Lucius H., killed near Petersburg, Va., 1864. Ryals, James D., served as courier to General Pickett. Sclater, Richard O., wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Spencer, John M., (volunteer), wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Steger, A. C., wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Steger, Robert H., killed at Sharpsburg, Md., 1862. Toler, Samuel A., killed at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Toler, William, exempted from service, 1861; dead. Walton, Dr. Richard P., promoted surgeon of the regiment; dead. Weymouth, William, died from the result of wounds received at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862. Wilkinson, George, exempted from service, 1861. Wlikinson, Richard, exempted from service, 1862; dead. Wood, H. E., color sergeant; wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va., 1862.  Wood, J. H., sergeant; wounded five times, losing at one time a pound and a half of flesh from his thigh and hip from a canon shot; is now living near Eaton, Weld county, Colorado, and an active business person.
Recruits.Anderson, Nat., Carrington, Robert, wounded at Gettysburg, Pa., 1863; Clopton, Mortimer, Covington, Creasy, Creasy, Crenshaw, Dodson, Dyson, Goodman, William; Gordon, Haley, Hewitt, Hurt, Moore, Padgett, William; Poole, Quarles, Ransom, Henry, transferred from Company H., 1863; Smith, Varner, Wakeham, John E., killed near Petersburg, Va., April, 1865; Webb, Winfree, William, was on detail service during the war. In giving the roster of the Black Eagle Company, of Cumberland county, Va, I venture to say that the morale of that company could be taken as a fair representation of the Virginia troops. In its rank and file were soldiers who had been educated at the University of Virginia, the Virginia Military Institute, Princeton, New Jersey, and the very best medical institutions of learning in the United States. Along with these soldiers of culture and refinement came another class not so fortunate in the walks of life, but who had been educated to a certain standard in the common schools of our country. There were soldiers in this Company who represented as much negro and other property interests as could be found in the State. There were other soldiers in this company who never owned a negro nor property of any value. These two separate and distinct classes of soldiers, financially and socially, so to speak, contended for their rights on the field of battle as if each individual soldier had been a millionaire.. The humble and unpretentious cot of the peasant was his castle and was no more to be invaded and devastated than the palatial residence of the prince. There was one motive which impelled and united this sentiment into one common thought, that of driving from their homes the invaders. Much has been said since the war about the Confederate war being the rich man's war and the poor man's fight. A palpable fallacy and a flagrant injustice done the brave, patriotic volunteers of that army. I think I can refute to some extent such heinous charges in relating the death  of two soldiers of the Black Eagle Company, Captain Carter B. Harrison and Private Jesse Barker. Captain Harrison, representing, as he did, to the highest degree, the intelligence, culture, wealth and chivalry of the South. He was a soldier and a patriot by birth. With these natural endowments he had been thoroughly trained at the Virginia Military Institute. He organized the Black Eagle Company and mustered it into service, but soon afterwards was promoted Major of the Eleventh Virginia Volunteers. At Bull Run, Va., 18th of July, 1861, the enemy made an attack on his regiment from the opposite side of the stream. Major Harrison asked permission to dislodge them. It was granted. He, with the Jeff Davis Guard, of Lynchburg, Va., charged and drove the enemy from their position. Major Harrison fell mortally wouned, living only a short while, thus exemplifying in life and death all the characteristics of his grand and glorious ancestry, having filled every station in life to which he had been called, according to his highest standard.
A good man.Jesse Barker, the counterpart as a soldier, was of humble and obscure parentage, possessing no earthly comforts unless it was the battered and faded Confederate uniform which wrapped his body, serving as a winding sheet for his burial, he having been buried where he fell. Jesse Barker had seen more than a score of his comrades killed and wounded carrying the flag of his regiment. He saw Boston killed at Williamsburg, Va. He saw the entire color guard, consisting of a sergeant and eight corporals killed and wounded at Gaines' Mill, Va. He witnessed the same fatality among his comrades four days afterwards at Frayser's Farm, Va., when the entire color guard was again shot down. He saw the head of Garland Sydnor, of Lunenburg county, Va., one of the noblest soldiers in the army, crushed to a pulp with a cannon shot, bearing aloft this same emblem of liberty and love. With these facts before him, knowing, as he did, that to be the standard bearer of the regiment made his killing or wounding inevitable,  yet when a volunteer ensign was called for, Jesse Barker offered his services. The test came at Sharpsburg, Md. It became necessary to change the position of the regiment, then in action. Major George C. Cabell, of Danville, Va., commanding the regiment at that time, than whom no truer patriot or braver soldier ever drew a sword in defense of a country, gave the command, ‘Color and general guides post,’ which meant that the color sergeant should advance fifteen paces to the front of the regiment.
A sad affair.In the din and confusion of battle Barker did not hear the command and did not advance. Major Cabell, seeing his orders disregarded, and supposing Barker was hesitating about it, reprimanded him, called him a coward, and asked that same brave soldier take the flag and go forward with it. Barker heard that and told Major Cabell he was no coward and was ready then to make as much sacrifice for the cause as any soldier in the army, and, if ordered to do so, he would advance with his flag as far toward the enemy as any other soldier would do, and asked that the order be repeated. Major Cabell again gave his order. Barker quickly advanced the fifteen paces to the front and stood waving the flag he loved so well in the face of the enemy till he fell a corpse. While Jesse Barker was poor in purse, he was rich in patriotic devotion. He was as true patriot, as fearless and intrepid a soldier as ever faced an enemy, and as proud of being a volunteer soldier in the Confederate ranks as if he had been commander-in-chief of the army. So much for the rich man's war and the poor man's fight. Each of these soldiers did his duty to the death, rich and poor alike, learned and unlearned. There is another instance of patriotic devotion and loyalty to the Southern cause, that of John M. Spencer, of Buckingham county, Va. Spencer was too young at the beginning of the hostilities to be enrolled as a soldier, but being very patriotic, he volunteered his services with the color guard of the Black Eagle Company for the battle of Seven Pines, Va. He passed through that baptism of fire and leaden hail unscathed, which  nerved him to try his luck again at Gaines' Mill, Va. He was more fortunate this time when he received his mark of honor: was wounded and afterwards joined Mosby's command; was captured and confined at Fort Warren, Mass., till the cruel war was over, and is now living at Berkley, California, as patriotic as ever—a good old rebel yet. The Black Eagle Company was mustered into service with sixty members, twenty-two of whom were killed in battle, twenty-two wounded, two died of disease contracted in camp, seven were exempted (too old at that time for the service, in 1862, the Confederate Congress at that time made that provision for them), six were retired from physical disability. Only one of the first organizations whose name I can now recall who remained with the company from its inception to its ending escaped a gunshot wound, and he was on detached duty. When the roll was called on the fatal field of Gettysburg before that immortal charge was made eighteen of the first enlisted members answered ready for duty. When the charge had ended eight were dead, nine were wounded and prisoners. Only one escaped an injury. A nobler band of patriots never banded together for any cause. I am sure they would have done their duty as the Spartans did at the Pass of Thermopylae, or as the allied forces did at Balaklava, or anywhere on earth where devotion to a cause or loyalty for a country would have been conspicuous. It can be truthfully said of them that they gave their bodies to their country and their souls to their God. If in making this roster I have erred, making it as I had to do from memory, I am sure my ex-comrades will pardon me, and I trust they will not think I have been making an effort to discriminate in mentioning them, as I have done the names of Major Harrison and Jesse Barker. It is a difficult task to discriminate or draw a line of distinction when so many gallant and meritorious soldiers were doing their duty.
The roll book.Carter Gilliam, our orderly sergeant, was killed at Gettysburg and his body left upon the field. He had the roll book of our company with him, and as such it was lost. I will relate an  incident in connection with our roll book which may be of interest to the surviving members of the company, as told me by Thomas W. Shiffleth, who was color sergeant for the Fourteenth Regiment, Virginia Volunteers—a soldier never known to shirk a duty nor flinch in battle. Shiffleth, in attempting with his flag in his hand to follow General Armistead over the stone fence, had a Federal soldier to thrust his musket in his face, shooting him below the eye, the ball coming out through the back of his head. He fell unconscious and remained in that condition during that day and the following night, till next morning, when he was around to consciousness by a Federal soldier, giving him a kick, supposing him dead, remarking to a comrade he had killed him the day before when attempting to climb over the stone fence. The Federal, realizing the fact that Shiffleth was yet alive, entered into conversation with him, and in making a display of the valuables he had rifled from the bodies of Confederate dead, our roll book was seen among them, showing he had robbed the dead body of our orderly sergeant. The Federal soldier at once gave Shiffleth all necessary attention, and had him taken to a hospital, placed upon a cot near the cot of a wounded Federal, who began twitting Shiffleth about the disaster which had befallen our army the day before, remarking that they had whipped us. Shiffleth told him he had not been whipped, and if his cot could be placed near enough for him to get hold of him he could then whip him. Shiffleth survived the war a year or more, and died from the effects of his wound at Gettysburg. I regret that I could not be more explicit and accurate in recording the names and deeds of the recruits, most of whom came to the company during the winter of 1864 and were not long with the command before its surrender and came from different sections of the State, unlike the old organization, all of whom I knew personally and who were Cumberland county men to the manner born.
H. E. Wood, Ex-Color Sergeant, Eighteenth Regiment.
|Major Andrew Reid Venable, Jr.|